Women in the 19th Century
European and American women in the nineteenth century lived in an age characterized by gender inequality. At the beginning of the century, women enjoyed few of the legal, social, or political rights that are now taken for granted in western countries: they could not vote, could not sue or be sued, could not testify in court, had extremely limited control over personal property after marriage, were rarely granted legal custody of their children in cases of divorce, and were barred from institutions of higher education. Women were expected to remain subservient to their fathers and husbands. Their occupational choices were also extremely limited. Middle- and upper-class women generally remained home, caring for their children and running the household. Lower-class women often did work outside the home, but usually as poorly-paid domestic servants or laborers in factories and mills.
The onset of industrialization, urbanization, as well as the growth of the market economy, the middle class, and life expectancies transformed European and American societies and family life. For most of the eighteenth century through the first few decades of the nineteenth century, families worked together, dividing farming duties or work in small-scale family-owned businesses to support themselves. With the rapid mercantile growth, big business, and migration to larger cities after 1830, however, the family home as the center of economic production was gradually replaced with workers who earned their living outside the home. In most instances, men were the primary "breadwinners" and women were expected to stay at home to raise children, to clean, to cook, and to provide a haven for returning husbands. Most scholars agree that the Victorian Age was a time of escalating gender polarization as women were expected to adhere to a rigidly defined sphere of domestic and moral duties, restrictions that women increasingly resisted in the last two-thirds of the century.
Scholarly analysis of nineteenth-century women has included examination of gender roles and resistance on either side of the Atlantic, most often focusing on differences and similarities between the lives of women in the United States, England, and France. While the majority of these studies have concentrated on how white, middle-class women reacted to their assigned domestic or private sphere in the nineteenth century, there has also been interest in the dynamics of gender roles and societal expectations in minority and lower-class communities. Although these studies can be complementary, they also highlight the difficulty of making generalizations about the lives of women from different cultural, racial, economic, and religious backgrounds in a century of steady change.
Where generalizations can be made, however, "the woman question," as it was called in debates of the time, has been seen as a tendency to define the role of women in terms of private domesticity. Most often, depictions of the lives of nineteenth-century women, whether European or American, rich or poor, are portrayed in negative terms, concentrating on their limited sphere of influence compared to that of men from similar backgrounds. In some cases, however, the private sphere of nineteenth-century women had arguably more positive images, defining woman as the more morally refined of the two sexes and therefore the guardian of morality and social cohesion. Women were able to use this more positive image as a means for demanding access to public arenas long denied them, by publicly emphasizing and asserting the need for and benefits of a more "civilized" and "genteel" influence in politics, art, and education.
The same societal transformations that were largely responsible for women's status being defined in terms of domesticity and morality also worked to provoke gender consciousness and reform as the roles assigned women became increasingly at odds with social reality. Women on both sides of the Atlantic, including Angelina and Sarah Grimké, Sarah Josepha Hale, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Frances Power Cobbe, both expressed and influenced the age's expectations for women. Through their novels, letters, essays, articles, pamphlets, and speeches these and other nineteenth-century women portrayed the often conflicting expectations imposed on them by society. These women, along with others, expressed sentiments of countless women who were unable to speak, and brought attention and support to their concerns. Modern critical analyses often focus on the methods used by women to advance their cause while still maintaining their delicate balance of propriety and feminine appeal by not "threatening" men, or the family unit.
Woman's Suffrage Journal [editor] (journal) 1870s
Barbara Leigh-Smith Bodichon
"A Brief Summary in Plain Language of the Most Important Laws Concerning Women, Together with a Few Observations" (essay) 1854
Jane Eyre (novel) 1847
Villette (novel) 1853
Wuthering Heights (novel) 1847
Anna Julia Haywood Cooper
"Womanhood a Vital Element in the Regeneration and Progress of a Race" (essay) 1886
"Why I Became a Woman's Rights Man" (essay) 1881
Adam Bede (novel) 1859
"Degradation of Women in Civilization" (essay) 1808
Woman in the Nineteenth Century (nonfiction) 1845
Mary Barton (novel) 1848
Cranford (novel) 1853
Ruth (novel) 1853
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
"Women's Political Future" (essay) 1893
Victoria Earle Matthews
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SOURCE: Fourier, Charles. "Degradation of Women in Civilization." Theorie des Quatre Mouvements et des Destinees Generales, pp. 131-33. Paris, France: n.p., 1841-48.
In the following excerpt, originally published in 1808, Fourier argues that French and English women are treated little better than slaves and that social progress in both countries depends on granting women greater freedoms and rights.
Is there a shadow of justice to be seen in the fate that has befallen women? Is not a young woman a mere piece of merchandise displayed for sale to the highest bidder as exclusive property? Is not the consent she gives to the conjugal bond derisory and forced on her by the tyranny of the prejudices that obsess her from childhood on? People try to persuade her that her chains are woven only of flowers; but can she really have any doubt about her degradation, even in those regions that are bloated by philosophy such as England, where a man has the right to take his wife to market with a rope around her neck, and sell her like a beast of burden to anyone who will pay his asking price? Is our public opinion on this point much more advanced than in that crude era when the Council of Mâcon, a true council of vandals, debated whether or not women had a soul and decided in the affirmative by a margin of only three votes? English legislation, which the moralists praise so...
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SOURCE: Weeton, Nellie. "The Trials of an English Governess." In Victorian Women: A Documentary Account of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France, and the United States, edited by Erna Olafson Hellerstein, Leslie Parker Hume, and Karen M. Offen, p. 343. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1981.
In the following journal entry and letter, written in 1810 and originally published in Journal of a Governess in 1936, Weeton recounts several incidents during her tenure as a governess.
[Nellie Weeton's journal entry for Jan. 26, 1810]
The comforts of which I have deprived myself in coming here, and the vexations that occur sometimes during the hours of instruction with a child of such strange temper to instruct, would almost induce me to give up my present situation, did not the consideration which brought me here, still retain me. O Brother! sometime thou wilt know perhaps the deprivations I have undergone for thy sake, and that thy attentions have not been such as to compensate them. For thy sake I have wanted food and fire, and have gone about in rags; have spent the flower of my youth in obscurity, deserted, and neglected; and now, when God has blessed me with a competence, have given up its comforts to promote thy interest in the world. Should I fail in this desire, should I not succeed!—what will recompense...
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SOURCE: Willard, Emma. "An Address to the Public, Proposing a Plan for Improving Female Education." An Address to the Public; Particularly to the Members of the Legislature of New York, Proposing a Plan for Improving Female Education. Middlebury, Conn.: J. W. Copeland, 1819.
In the following address, Willard notes the benefits of improved education for women.
The object of this Address, is to convince the public, that a reform, with respect to female education, is necessary; that it cannot be effected by individual exertion, but that it requires the aid of the legislature; and further, by shewing the justice, the policy, and the magnamity of such an undertaking, to persuade the body to endow a seminary for females, as the commencement of such reformation.
The idea of a college for males will naturally be associated with that of a seminary, instituted and endowed by the public; and the absurdity of sending ladies to college, may, at first thought, strike every one to whom this subject shall be proposed. I therefore hasten to observe, that the seminary here recommended, will be as different from those appropriated to the other sex, as the female character and duties are from the male. The business of the husbandman is not to waste his endeavours, in seeking to make his orchard attain the strength and majesty of his forest, but to rear each, to...
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SOURCE: Parisian Garment Workers. “The Adult Woman: Work.” In Victorian Women: A Documentary Account of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France, and the United States, edited by Erna Olafson Hellerstein, Leslie Parker Hume, and Karen M. Offen, p. 330. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1981.
In the following petition, written to the Parisian government in 1848, women workers who were losing work to contractors outside of France appeal to lawmakers to intercede on their behalf.
Please consider the request of some poor working women. The convents and the prisons take all our work away from us; they do it for such a low price that we can't compete with them. Almost all of us are mothers of families. We have our keep, our nourishment and our lodgings to pay for and we are not able to make enough money to cover these expenses. The employers also wrong us by sending their garment-making orders out of Paris; thus we can find no work and are nearly reduced to begging. Therefore, gentlemen, we urge you to put an end to these injustices. All we want is work.
We hope, Gentlemen, that you will be good enough to consider our request. We salute you with respect.
[Signed by seven women, with their addresses]
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SOURCE: Cady Stanton, Elizabeth. "Elizabeth Cady Stanton's 1848 Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention Speech (abridged)." In Returning to Seneca Falls: The First Woman's Rights Convention & Its Meaning for Men & Women Today, edited by Bradford Miller, pp. 172-77. Hudson, N.Y.: Lindisfarne Press, 1995.
In the following speech, delivered at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, Cady Stanton argues that there is no biblical or natural justification for the subjugation of women, and that women must organize to overturn unjust laws and customs that leave them without legal rights or political representation.
I should feel exceedingly diffident to appear before you at this time, having never before spoken in public, were I not nerved by a sense of right and duty, did I not feel the time had fully come for the question of woman's wrongs to be laid before the public, did I not believe that woman herself must do this work; for woman alone can understand the height, the depth, the length, and the breadth of her own degradation. Man can not speak for her.…
Among the many important questions which have been brought before the public, there is none that more vitally affects the whole human family than that which is technically called Woman's Rights. Every allusion to the degraded and inferior position occupied by women all over the world has been met...
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SOURCE: The Sibyl. "Short Hair and Short Dresses." In Public Women, Public Words: A Documentary History of American Feminism, edited by Dawn Keetley and John Pettegrew, p. 145. Madison, Wis.: Madison House, 1997.
In the following letter, published in The Sibyl in February 1857, the unknown writer, E. E. S, champions The Sibyl for supporting the wearing of short hair and dresses. The editor offers a response that admonishes outdated fashions and traditions.
Waynesville, Ill., Jan. 26, 1857.
Dear Madam.—Enclosed I sent you $2, for which please send numbers of THE SIBYL to those I mention below. By accident I came across two numbers of your invaluable paper, for which I was very thankful, for it gave me the privilege of subscribing and getting subscribers.
I have worn the short dress for several years, and think it far superior to the long and heavy skirts that fashion demands. I have borne the insults of the people, and the salutes of the passers by, but have never felt my determination shaken. I feel that I am right, and mean to go ahead. I am the only one who wears the Reform Dress in this vicinity; so you can judge of the pleasure it was to me to meet with your paper. It seems like an old and tried friend; and with it to help me, I think that, with never-tiring zeal, I can accomplish something. I often...
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SOURCE: Bastian, Louisa, Mary Hamelton, and Anna Long. "The Adult Woman: Work." In Victorian Women: A Documentary Account of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France, and the United States, edited by Erna Olafson Hellerstein, Leslie Parker Hume, and Karen M. Offen, p. 330. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1981.
In the following petition, sent to lawmakers during the American Civil War, seamstresses ask the government to intervene against unfair labor practices.
We the undersigned formerly doing sewing for the United States Arsenal at Philadelphia most respectfully remonstrate against the action of Col. Crossman in taking the work from us and giving it to contractors who will not pay wages in which we can live—many of us have husbands, fathers, sons & brothers now in the army and from whom we derived our support. Deprived of that as we are our only mode of living was by sewing and we were able by unceasing exertions to barely live at the prices paid by the Arsenal. The Contractors who are speculators offer about fifty per cent of the prices paid heretofore by the arsenal—we respectfully ask your attention to our case. We have all given satisfaction in the work we have done. Then why should the government money be taken from the families of the poor to enrich the wealthy speculator without any gain to the government....
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SOURCE: Robinson, Harriet H. "Early Factory Labor in New England." In Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor, Fourteenth Annual Report, pp. 380-92. Boston: Wright & Potter, 1883.
In the following report, Robinson describes the experiences of women factory workers in Lowell, Massachusetts.
In what follows, I shall confine myself to a description of factory life in Lowell, Massachusetts, from 1832 to 1848, since, with that phase of Early Factory Labor in New England, I am the most familiar—because I was a part of it. In 1832, Lowell was little more than a factory village. Five "corporations" were started, and the cotton mills belonging to them were building. Help was in great demand and stories were told all over the country of the new factory place, and the high wages that were offered to all classes of work-people; stories that reached the ears of mechanics' and farmers' sons and gave new life to lonely and dependent women in distant towns and farm-houses.…Troops of young girls came from different parts of New England, and from Canada, and men were employed to collect them at so much a head and deliver them at the factories.…
At the time the Lowell cotton mills were started the caste of the factory girl was the lowest among the employments of women. In England and in France, particularly, a great injustice had been done to her...
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SOURCE: Watkins Harper, Frances Ellen. "Woman's Political Future." In With Pen and Voice: A Critical Anthology of Nineteenth-Century African-American Women, edited by Shirley Wilson Logan, pp. 43-46. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1995.
In the following excerpt, originally published in 1893, Harper argues that the influence of women in American political life is necessary to bring an end to the many injustices that plague the nation.
If before sin had cast its deepest shadows or sorrow had distilled its bitterest tears, it was true that it was not good for man to be alone, it is no less true, since the shadows have deepened and life's sorrows have increased, that the world has need of all the spiritual aid that woman can give for the social advancement and moral development of the human race. The tendency of the present age, with its restlessness, religious upheavals, failures, blunders, and crimes, is toward broader freedom, an increase of knowledge, the emancipation of thought, and a recognition of the brotherhood of man; in this movement woman, as the companion of man, must be a sharer. So close is the bond between man and woman that you can not raise one without lifting the other. The world can not move without woman's sharing in the movement, and to help give a right impetus to that movement is woman's highest privilege....
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SOURCE: Olafson Hellerstein, Erna, Leslie Parker Hume and Karen M. Offen. "General Introduction." In Victorian Women: A Documentary Account of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France, and the United States, edited by Erna Olafson Hellerstein, Leslie Parker Hume, and Karen M. Offen, pp. 1-3. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1981.
In the following excerpt, Hellerstein, Hume, and Offen argue that the social roles and expectations of French, English, and American women living during the Victorian era underwent fundamental and often contradictory transformations due to changes in the market economy, life expectancy, democratic institutions, state regulations, and gender polarization.
In the ferment about sex roles and the family that characterizes our own time, men and women still define themselves in terms of the Victorians, either living out ideas and defending institutions that came to fruition in the nineteenth century or reacting against these ideas and institutions and against Victorian "repression." Modern "objective" social science, born during the Victorian period, both incorporated and legitimized Victorian prejudices about gender, the family, work, and the division between public and private spheres. These inherited categories still influence the way we organize our information, not only about ourselves, but about cultures different...
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SOURCE: Freedman, Estelle B. and Erna Olafson Hellerstein. Introduction to Victorian Women: A Documentary Account of Women’s Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France, and the United States, pp. 118-33. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1981.
In the following essay, Freedman and Hellerstein examine the domestic, sexual, and mothering duties of Victorian women in France, England, and the United States, citing first-hand accounts to show that women responded in a variety of ways to the often contradictory nature of their idealized and actual roles in private life.
The doctrine of the separate spheres, as elaborated in literature, law, medicine, and religion, prescribed that women’s personal lives center around home, husband, and children. The traditional separation between the male public sphere and the female private sphere took on new meaning in the nineteenth century as the distance between these worlds grew and as ever fewer jobs were performed in and around the household. Women at home became, ideally, specialists in emotional and spiritual life, protecting tradition and providing a stable refuge from the harsh, impersonal public sphere that men now entered in increasing numbers. Tennyson captured the ordering vision behind this sexual polarization in the words spoken by the old king in The Princess:1...
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SOURCE: Rendall, Jane. Introduction to The Origins of Modern Feminism: Women in Britain, France and the United States 1780-1860, pp. 1-6. London, England: Macmillan, 1985.
In the following essay, Rendall argues that a comparison between the rise of feminist sentiment in England, France, and the United States helps in understanding the domestic life and social aspirations of women between 1780 and 1860.
In a sense the title of this book is anachronistic. The English word 'feminism' was not in use within this period. The French word féminisme was coined by the Utopian socialist, Charles Fourier, and used only by him. The first recorded use of the term in English, derived from the French, was in 1894, according to the 1933 Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary. The relevant volume of the Dictionary itself was written from 1894 to 1897 and does not contain the accepted modern meaning of the term.1 Twentieth-century historians have found the word an essential tool for analysis, and it is a term which may have many nuances of meaning. Gerda Lerner has distinguished between movements for 'woman's rights', in the sense of civil and political equality, and 'woman's emancipation', in the sense of a broader striving for 'freedom from oppressive restrictions imposed by sex; self-determination; autonomy'.2 I have here...
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SOURCE: Grogan, Susan K. Introduction to French Socialism and Sexual Difference: Women and the New Society, 1803-44, pp. 1-19. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.
In the following excerpt, Grogan discusses how the idealized roles and proper lifestyles of French women were debated by the French clergy, philosophers, and doctors during the nineteenth century in an effort to maintain domestic and national stability.
The place of woman in early nineteenth-century French society was fraught with contradictions. She was worshipped as ‘Muse and Madonna’ of the society,1 but was legally a non-person. She was the symbol of Truth and Justice, of Liberty and the Republic, yet she was simultaneously exploited and despised. In fact, the idealisation of ‘Woman’ as abstract entity contrasted dramatically with the subordinate position of real women in the economic, political and civil structures of their society. Since men dominated those structures and created the images, the contradictions between them illustrated men’s ambivalence towards women. However, the ambiguities in women’s position also reflected the uncertainties of a society which had undergone (and continued to experience) major political upheavals, and which faced the disruptions of incipient industrialisation. New patterns of economic and political life required and created new patterns...
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SOURCE: Logan, Shirley Wilson. "Black Women on the Speaker's Platform, 1832-1900." "We are Coming": The Persuasive Discourse of Nineteenth-Century Black Women, pp. 1-22. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999.
In the following excerpt, Logan provides evidence for the important place that women lecturers held in both the abolitionist and feminist movements.
Our progress depends in the united strength of both men and women—the women alone nor the men alone cannot do the work. We have so fully realized that fact by witnessing the work of our men with the women in the rear. This is indeed the women's era, and we are coming.
—Rosetta Douglass-Sprague, July 20, 1896
Nineteenth-century African American women were full participants in the verbal warfare for human dignity. Describing the women and the times, Rosetta Douglass-Sprague, daughter of Anna Murray Douglass and Frederick Douglass, proclaimed at the First Annual Convention of the National Federation of Afro-American Women, July 20-22, 1896, "This is indeed the women's era, and we are coming" (History 37). During the three-day conference, the footsteps of advancing black women resonated in the speeches and remarks of such forward-thinking intellectuals as Ida B. Wells, Victoria Earle Matthews, Alice Ruth Moore, and Frances Ellen...
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SOURCE: Waelti-Walters, Jennifer and Steven C. Hause. Introduction to Feminisms of the Belle Epoque: A Historical and Literary Anthology, edited by Jennifer Waelti-Walters and Steven C. Hause, pp. 1-13. Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.
In the following excerpt, Waelti-Walters and Hause argue that France made important contributions to modern feminism even though social and legal obstacles in that country made nineteenth-century reform towards achieving women's rights slower than in England or the United States.
Many of the roots of modern feminism lie in France. This may surprise readers who are more familiar with feminism than they are with France. After all, the philosophic masterworks of early feminism, from Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) to John Stuart Mill's Subjection of Women (1869), appeared chiefly in the English language. The first large organizations dedicated to seeking women's rights emerged in Britain and the United States, and the first great feminist reforms, the Married Women's Property Acts, were won across America (1839-50) and in Britain (1882) long before France adopted the Schmahl Law of 1907. In the global struggle to win women's suffrage, Australia, New Zealand, and Scandinavia often led in the adoption of feminist reforms, whereas French women did not even win the vote...
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SOURCE: Gleadle, Kathryn. Introduction to The Early Feminists: Radical Unitarians and the Emergence of The Women’s Rights Movement, 1831-51, pp. 1-7. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.
In the following excerpt, Gleadle argues that the roots of the women’s rights movement preceded the Seneca Falls Convention by at least two decades, and that its principles were initially articulated and embraced by feminist activity inspired by radical unitarianism.
The nineteenth-century woman has been subject to exhaustive historical scrutiny over the past two decades. The dichotomy between the realities of her iniquitous legal and social standing on the one hand, and the cultural worship of the womanly nature by contemporaries on the other, has made her a fascinating object of study. Moreover, it was during that century that women first began to organise themselves into campaigns to demand reforms in their status. Indeed, historians have now delved beyond the suffragettes’ battles to argue that from the 1850s onwards, a small, but vocal group of middle-class women started to agitate for better education, improved legal rights (especially within marriage), employment opportunities and the right to vote.1
This book seeks to highlight the weaknesses of the existing historiography of early Victorian feminism, by addressing itself to the origins of these...
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SOURCE: Hoffert, Sylvia D. Introduction to When Hens Crow: The Woman’s Right Movement in Antebellum America, pp. 1-14. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1995.
In the following essay, Hoffert argues that American women who demanded a voice in national and domestic affairs in the first half of the nineteenth century created a philosophy that escaped the narrow confines of the ideology of Republican Motherhood, enabling women of future generations to enter public life.
Let me begin with a fable. “There once lived in a Farm Yard a great many Roosters and Hens, and it chanced one morning that a young Hen with a very fine voice began to crow. Thereupon all the Roosters hurried together and solemnly declared that there was nothing so dreadful as a Crowing Hen! Now there was in the Yard a Rooster who had always been feeble and could only cackle, but when the Hen mentioned this, the Roosters shook their heads and said, ‘Females do not understand Logic.’” The moral to the story: “There is a great deal of difference between a Cackling Rooster and a Crowing Hen.”1
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Representations Of Women In Literature And Art In The 19Th Century
SOURCE: Ehrenreich, Barbara and Deirdre English. “The Sexual Politics of Sickness.” In For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women, pp. 101-09. New York: Anchor Books/Doubleday, 1978.
In the following excerpt, Ehrenreich and English argue that many of the illnesses routinely affecting women during the nineteenth century were most likely manifestations of their gender subjugation, their feelings of powerlessness, and their unrealistic domestic roles.
When Charlotte Perkins Gilman collapsed with a “nervous disorder,” the physician she sought out for help was Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, “the greatest nerve specialist in the country.” It was Dr. Mitchell—female specialist, part-time novelist, and member of Philadelphia’s high society—who had once screened Osler for a faculty position, and, finding him appropriately discreet in the disposal of cherry-pie pits, admitted the young doctor to medicine’s inner circles. When Gilman met him, in the eighteen eighties, he was at the height of his career, earning over $60,000 per year (the equivalent of over $300,000 in today’s dollars). His reknown for the treatment of female nervous disorders had by this time led to a marked alteration of character. According to an otherwise fond biographer, his vanity “had become colossal. It was fed by torrents of adulation, incessant and exaggerated, every day, almost...
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SOURCE: Douglas, Ann. "The Legacy of American Victorianism." In The Feminization of American Culture, pp. 7-13. New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1988.
In the following excerpt, Douglas argues that in the nineteenth century, the vacuum left by the demise of Calvinist theology in America was filled by a feminizing sentiment that did little to empower women.
… Between 1820 and 1875,1 in the midst of the transformation of the American economy into the most powerfully aggressive capitalist system in the world, American culture seemed bent on establishing a perpetual Mother's Day. As the secular activities of American life were demonstrating their utter supremacy, religion became the message of America's official and conventional cultural life. This religion was hardly the Calvinism of the founders of the Bay Colony or that of New England's great eighteenth-century divines. It was a far cry, moreover, from the faith which at least imaginatively still engaged serious authors like Melville and Hawthorne.
Under "Calvinism" we can place much of what rigorous theology Protestant Americans have ever officially accepted. Until roughly 1820, this theological tradition was a chief, perhaps the chief, vehicle of intellectual and cultural activity in American life. The Calvinist tradition culminated in the Edwardsean school:2 most...
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SOURCE: Chadwick, Whitney. "Separate But Unequal: Woman's Sphere and the New Art." In Women, Art, and Society, pp. 210-35. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 1990.
In the following essay, Chadwick describes how late-nineteenth century art by American women, often influenced by French art and society, reflected changes in women's perceptions of how their social roles should be defined.
The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 represented a milestone in women's struggles to achieve public visibility in American cultural life. Approximately one tenth of the works of art in the United States section were by women, more than in any other country's display. Emily Sartain of Philadelphia received a Centennial gold medal, the only one awarded to a woman, for a painting called The Reproof (now lost). Sartain's painting was displayed in the United States section, but the exhibition also boasted a Women's Pavilion with over 40,000 square feet of exhibition space devoted to the work of almost 1500 women from at least 13 countries.
Presided over by Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, Benjamin Franklin's great-grand-daughter and an experienced community leader, the Women's Centennial Executive Committee had raised over $150,000 amid considerable controversy. The building's existence as a segregated display area had been contested from the beginning. "It...
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Barry, David. Women and Political Insurgency: France in the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Basingstoke, England: Macmillan Press, Ltd., 1996, 213 p.
Recounts the participation of French women in political and social rebellions from the 1789 Revolution through the 1870s.
Browne, Stephen Howard. Angelina Grimké. East Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State University Press, 1999, 201 p.
Studies the social activism of Angelina Grimké, one of the first American women to publicly contest the institution of slavery and the social limitations placed on women.
Chadwick, Whitney. "Toward Utopia: Moral Reform and American Art in the Nineteenth Century." In Women, Art, and Society, pp. 191-209. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 1990.
Describes how American women in the first half of the nineteenth century increasingly used art as a means to show their support for social reform.
Clinton, Catherine. The Other Civil War: American Women in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Hill and Wang, 1984, 212 p.
Provides a chronological study of the increasingly organized struggles American women fought in the nineteenth century to challenge traditional roles assigned to them and to gain...
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